March 31, 2010


You should get the Gardasil vaccine. Here's why:

It prevents the 4 most common and most deadly strains of HPV.
HPV is an incredibly common STD (you could already have it).
Certain strains of HPV turn into genital warts or cervical cancer.
HPV affects both men and women (well, at least those who are having sex).
You could be carrying HPV and not know it and pass it to a partner.
The only way to test for HPV is to test symptoms.
HPV is transmitted through simple skin contact.
Condoms don't provide 100% protection against HPV.

Gardasil is administered in 3 doses in 6 months at any doctor, gynecologist or Planned Parenthood clinic. Very few people feel any side effects (mostly some soreness at the injection site) and it has been proven effective in blocking those deadliest strains of HPV. The key word in that sentence, however, is blocking. Once you have a strain of HPV it's yours to keep (and share). Gardasil can't really help you once you've gotten a strain; it can, however, continue to block the other three strains, so it's still worth getting.

The biggest caveat is price. Retail value is about $160 per shot, for a total of close to $500. Insurance covers most of this price, but even if it doesn't $500 isn't much compared to the cost of cancer, financial and otherwise. Plus, the distributor, Merck & Co., made an agreement with Planned Parenthood to give the shot to qualified individuals (those of us who are poor enough) for $20 a pop. Hooray!

I finally finished the 6 month, 3 shot procedure this week. The only side effect I experienced the whole time was when I got the last shot. The drug is stored at very low temperatures, so a thoughtful nurse will let it sit out for a few minutes before injecting it. Unfortunately, I didn't get to wait long enough, so the injection was pure cold going straight into my muscle. And then I went to work, where I use my arms extensively, so it's still a little sore. But now I'm protected against the 4 strains of HPV that cause most cervical cancers and genital warts, so even if my future partner has one of those strains I'll be OK.

So, to quote a friend: Not getting cancer is where it's at!

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